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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Joel: Is there any risk of brain damage?
Doctor Mierzwiak: Well, uh, technically speaking, the procedure IS brain damage, but it's on a par with a night of heavy drinking. Nothing you'll miss.

- Jim Carrey, Tom Wilkinson

Review By: Robert Edwards  
Published: September 26, 2004

Stars: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst
Other Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Tom Wilkinson
Director: Michel Gondry

MPAA Rating: R for language, some drug and sexual content.
Run Time: 01h:47m:40s
Release Date: September 28, 2004
UPC: 025192395925
Genre: romantic comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-AA B

DVD Review

Valentines Day, 2004. Joel (Jim Carrey) ditches work and takes the train to Montauk, spending his day walking on the beach. He's a little depressed, reminiscing about his old girlfriend Naomi, and wondering if he'll ever meet a new girl. He does in the person of Clementine (Kate Winslet), who's impulsive and free-spirited, the exact opposite of the laconic and cautious Joel. They "meet cute" on the train back, and proceed to spend the rest of the day together.

It's about 20 minutes into the film that we finally get to the opening credits, and the breezy tone of the beginning is replaced by something far darker and more sinister. There are two guys in a van following Joel, and when he collapses after taking some pills, we next see him sprawled on his bed, a weird apparatus on his head, controlled by the two guys, Stan (Mark Ruffalo) and Patrick (Elijah Wood). Joel and Clementine's relationship has gone bad, and Joel's decided to erase all memories of her, courtesy of services provided by the Lacuna Corporation, but as we learn, it's partially in response to Clementine's erasing of her own memories of Joel.

This is director Michel Gondry's second feature, after 2001's Human Nature, but he's probably better known for his amazingly creative music videos. Exploring themes such as patterning and repetition, they're visually arresting, each done in a unique style. Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is famous for his mind-bending scripts for such films as Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, which mix reality and fiction in interesting ways. And the theme of memory has provided inspiration for everything from European arthouse films (Alain Resnais' Je t'aime, je t'aime and Providence, for example) to more standard Hollywood fare such as Total Recall. Add these three elements together, and you're sure to get a film that will be unpredictable and intriguing, which invites multiple viewings.

And the basic plot description above is only the beginning. Midway through the erasure process, Joel has a change of heart. He may not have Clementine in his life any more, but he suddenly realizes that he doesn't want to lose all memory of her. The problem is, there's already a map of all of his memories of Clementine stored in the erasing apparatus, and Joel is forced to take Clementine into places she never was. As Joel explores more of his childhood, his experiences and memories overlap, mixing present and past. Gondry draws on his extremely creative visual sense to illustrate the confusion with an exhilarating catalogue of film techniques, including with unrealistic lighting, objects (and people) literally disappearing from the film frame, forced perspective, and deliberate lack of focus, just to name a few.

Cast against type, Jim Carrey is great as the semi-withdrawn Joel, who's more and more outraged by Clementine's impulsive and somewhat self-destructive behavior. Kate Winslet shows no trace of her English accent in a performance that's charming and full of life. The supporting performances, especially Mark Ruffalo, are equally good.

If there is one minor quibble with the film, it's that it's a bit long, especially in the sections that illustrate the removal of Clementine from Joel's memory. Although they are all different in style and interesting in their own right, there are simply too many of them, and this reviewer found himself saying, "Okay, I get it," more than once. But aside from this minor nitpick, Eternal Sunshine is an effective, intriguing, visually beautiful film, and one of the best releases of the year.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The transfer is great, with realistic colors and accurate skin tones throughout. Many scenes were shot with existing light, so the good black levels and shadow differentiation are welcome. There's lots of detail in the image, and no edge enhancement or compression artifacts. One minor quibble is that some scenes (especially night scenes) show some grain.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchno
DTSEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The audio is rich and full, with lots of dynamic range. The 5.1 mixes are fairly subtle and usually don't call attention to themselves, but when appropriate the listener is enveloped in sound, such as wind or rain. The DTS mix is preferred, as it's more spacious than the Dolby 5.1 version. The French 5.1 dub is good.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 20 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Vanity Fair, The Motorcycle Diaries
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Michel Gondry and writer Charlie Kaufman
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Focus Films promo
  2. A Conversation with Jim Carrey and Director Michel Gondry
  3. The Polyphonic Spree "Light & Day" music video
  4. Lacuna Infomercial
Extras Review: The extras are a mixed bag. There's a fluffy 11m:31s promo for the film, which can be skipped, but the 15m:35s A Conversation with Jim Carrey and Director Michel Gondry is more interesting. They talk about the filmmaking process, the script, and how Carrey was able to contribute his own childhood memories to the film. There's a quick demo of forced perspective, and a couple of amusing anecdotes.

There are four deleted scenes, which play sequentially over their 7m:02s. Taken directly from the editing deck, complete with time codes, they look surprisingly good, but don't add much to the film. Polyphonic Spree's Light & Day music video is amusing, adding matted-in mouths singing the song's lyrics to footage from the film, and featuring singing houses and dancing vegetables. The brief (:37s) Lacuna Infomercial is a faux commercial for the company that erases memories in the film, and is pretty funny.

The continuous commentary (with a few gaps) by Gondry and Kaufman is less elucidating than one might have expected. It starts out humorously, as Kaufman mocks Gondry's initial attempts to simply narrate what's on screen, but becomes more serious as they discuss the history of the film's production, shooting locations, and changes made to the script. There's some interesting information here, such as how they kept Jim Carrey slightly off balance by continually surprising him, and Gondry's distaste for sex scenes, but all in all, this is a slightly disappointing commentary.

A Focus Films promo and trailers for Vanity Fair and The Motorcycle Diaries play sequentially when the disc begins, but they can be interrupted with the "menu" button. Subtitles in English, French and Spanish are also provided.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Master visual stylist Michel Gondry teams up with scriptwriter Charlie Kaufman to create a complex, visually striking film. The performances are good, and the great transfer and reasonable extras make this a winning package.

 


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